It is very important to pronounce the speech sounds as accurately as possible.
For the summary list only, see the Pronunciation Guide
in the Reading Treehouse Materials Collection.
Let’s say you are a beginner who has learned that the letter B makes the ‘buh’ sound.
Now, imagine trying to sound out ‘bat’ if you’re trying to pronounce ‘buh-at.’
You see the problem?
The poor beginner has never heard of a buh-at.
Here is the background to help you understand how the sounds work.
Voiced or Whispered Sounds
Some sounds in speech are ‘voice-on’ or ‘voiced’ sounds.
They make your voice box buzz.
Feel your Adam’s apple when you say ‘Ah-h-h-h.’
You can feel the vibration that is your voice.
That’s the feeling of a voiced sound.
Other sounds in speech are ‘voice-off’ or ‘voiceless’ sounds.
They are whispered.
Open your mouth and breathe out: ‘h-h-h-h.’
As you feel your Adam’s apple, there should be no buzz at all in your voice box.
That’s the feeling of a whispered sound. Memorize it.
Many Sounds Come In Pairs--A Voiced and a Whispered Partner:
1. All vowels are voiced.
Ayy, eee, ie, oh, you, oy, ow . . . any vowel sound is produced with the voice on.
As a matter of fact, a vowel is just a mouth shape and a voice.
2. On the other hand, many consonant sounds have a voiced and a whispered version.
The tongue, lips and jaw do exactly the same thing when we say /t/ and when we say /d/.
But the /t/ is a whispered sound.
The /d/ is the voiced version of the same tongue movement.
Here is a list of whispered sounds and their voiced partners.
You don’t have to memorize this list; just notice how the mouth moves the same way, while the voice turns off or on.
/k/ or 'c'
Practice pronouncing each of the whispered sounds with no vowel, no voice at all.
Be especially careful to whisper /t/, ‘c’ or /k/ and /p/.
Listen: The /t/sound is not ‘tuh.’ There is no ‘uh’ to it.
It’s just /t/.
Feel your voice box and make sure you don’t make any vowel-voice, no matter how small or how soft. It’s just air.
The same goes for ‘c’ or /k / and /p/
If this is difficult, say ‘tuh,’ ‘kuh,’ or ‘puh’ without the ‘uh.’
If it’s still hard, ask a speech pathologist to show you how.
Voiced sounds, of course, are pronounced with the voice on:
L-l-l, r-r-r, m-m-m. . .
B, D, and G are tricky to voice correctly:
Unfortunately, it is impossible to pronounce three of the voiced sounds without a little extra vowel tagging along:
/b/, /d/ and /g/
So the trick is to keep the vowel as small as possible.
You get the idea:
Imagine trying to sound out ‘ball’ if you’re trying to pronounce ‘buhh-all.’
Luckily there are some voiced sounds which don’t need any vowel at all, because they are stretchy.
You can just stretch them out with your voice on, and that works fine.
Here is a list of stretchy sounds.
You don’t need to memorize it.
Just practice stretching them and notice that you do not need any tag-along ‘uh’ at all.
Whether voiced or whispered, always stretch any sounds that will stretch.
That way you avoid the added-vowel problem entirely.
s-s-s, f-f-f, h-h-h, sh-h-h.
Stretching makes these sounds easier for beginners to hear in word games, too.
Tricks for stretching ‘Y’ and ‘W’
With one continuous voice, say ‘eee-uh’ (‘y’). Hear the ‘y’ sound?
Try stretching ‘y’ in some words: eee-esterday, eee-awn, eee-ogurt.
With one continuous voice, say ‘ooo-uh’ (‘w’). Hear the ‘w’ sound?
Try stretching ‘w’ in some words: ooo-indow, ooo-ishbone, ooo-addle.
Here’s a handy list.
Remember: No vowel, no voice at all, on the whispered sounds. Just air.
Use the least possible ‘tag-along vowel’ for /b/, /g/, or /d/.
More on this topic: The Reading Treehouse -> THE WALLS: Phonics
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